The Courage of an Exemplary Wife (1 Peter 3:5-6)

The Courage of an Exemplary Wife (1 Peter 3:5-6)


  • Peter’s instruction to wives and husbands falls within a section (2:11-3:16) of exhortation to live lives that compliments Christianity in a pagan culture.
  • Christian citizens and servants were to respect authorities (2:14-20). Likewise, wives are to respect their husbands (3:1-6).

Read 1 Peter 3:1-7

  • The pattern of Peter’s exhortation:
    • Reverence For God > Submission to Husband (1-2).
    • Beauty Before God (Affirmation) > Adorning with a gentle and quiet spirit (3-4).
    • Hope In God > Obedience, respect, doing good, and not fearing (5-6).
  • How a wife relates to her husband flows out of her dependence upon God.
    1. The Conduct Of An Exemplary Wife (1-2)
    2. The Character Of An Exemplary Wife (3-4)
    3. The Courage Of An Exemplary Wife (5-6)
      • The Example of Sarah’s Obedience (5-6a)
      • Your Calling to Do Good (6b)
    4. The Consideration Of An Exemplary Husband (7)

The Example of Sarah’s Obedience (5-6a)

  • Respect: Sarah refers to Abraham as “my lord” (Gen. 18:12). It doesn’t mean that Sarah worshiped Abraham, but she respected him (roughly equivalent to “sir”).
  • Obedience: Peter doesn’t provide a specific example. Genesis no reference to Sarah’s obedience of Abraham.
    • Some critical scholars point out that Abraham actually defers to Sarah regarding Hagar (16:2; 16:6; 21:12). They suggest Peter’s interpretation is inaccurate. But these examples actually prove Abraham’s headship, which is why she came to him with a request rather than simply going through with her plan.
    • Other suggest Peter has in mind when Abraham, on two occasions, tells Sarah to say that she’s his sister (12:13; 20:5, 13). This endangered their lives and the purity of their marriage. Is Peter suggesting wives are supposed to submit to their husbands irresponsible and unjust demands?
    • Matthew Henry thinks it is a reference of her willingness to follow him out of Ur.

Karen Jobes The apostle Peter is most likely simply drawing on Jewish interpretive tradition and would not have intended a choice of any one passage from Genesis or any other text in order to understand his reference to Sarah. In Jewish tradition Sarah is a virtuous woman, and virtuous women are understood to be obedient to their husbands.

  • Placing your hope in anyone/anything other than God > imbalanced and unhealthy marriage.
  • We like to think our relationship with God is entirely independent of our relationship with our spouse. Can you grow in faith, hope, and love towards God while – at the same time – your marriage experiences an increasingly cynical, hopeless and hateful division? Generally, no.
  • This is great news for cultivating healthy marriages!
    • As wives mature spiritually, their obedience and respect for their husbands will increase.
    • When both spouses are Christian, as the spiritual head, the husband is called to cultivate his wife’s maturity.
    • And this complimentary cycle continues to repeat itself.
    • However, a marriage can experience this kind of harmony when just one spouse is spiritually maturing.
  • Imagine how much your marriage would change if you adopted this mindset.

From the example of Sarah, Peter transitions to…

Your Calling to Do Good (6b)

  • Peter exhorts Christian wives to do good and not fear.
  • See vv.13-14. If a wife is doing good, in the eyes of God, she should not fear any man (including her unbelieving husband). Obedience to God trumps the unrighteous demands of a husband (whether they believe or not).
  • Fear is what leads to bitterness, hatred, and hostility. Rather than being filled with fear, the Christian wife courageously endures unjust treatment from her husband because her hope is in God.
  • In other words, women should not fear greater mistreatment if they maintain a submissive, gentle, obedient, and respectful demeanor towards their husbands.
  • This immediately raises some questions. What if a husband takes advantage of a wife’s submission? What if her respect is treated as a license for abuse?
  • Things are somewhat complicated by the fact that this instruction to wives follows the abusive treatment of Jesus at the hands of unjust authorities (2:21-25).
  • Must wives endure the physical and emotional abuse of their husbands? Is Peter instructing them to quietly accept their husband’s verbal rage?
  • Honestly, anyone who reads Peter in that way is completely ignoring his instruction to husbands in the following verse.
  • Peter is seeking to uphold the covenant of marriage in a culture that didn’t generally accept spiritually mismatched marriages.
  • A wife’s priority is obedience to God, which will not always result in a happy husband. Peter exhorts Christians to submit to civil authorities (2:13), yet he disobeyed when their demands contradicted God’s commands.
  • How does a believing wife “do good” if a husband is abusive in any way towards her, her children, or even himself (threatening suicide)? I’ve learned a great deal from Leslie Vernick on this point:
    • By alerting both the civil and religious authorities her courageous action not only protects her and her family, but it serves the interests of her husband as well, because she refuses to enable his sinful behavior.
    • No doubt, this response will lead to great suffering on her part. She may experience financial hardship, loneliness, anxiety about her husband’s retaliation, and even the incessant questioning of her motives by friends and family. See 4:19.

This suffering is met with the loving embrace of a Savior who also suffered for doing good.


  • How a wife relates to her husband flows out of her dependence upon God.
  • Whether she is obeying and respecting her husband, or doing good without fear, God will be pleased.
  • As she increases in reverence for the Lord, receives her ultimate affirmation from Him, and places her hope in Him, her ability is strengthened to relate well to her husband.
  • How was Jesus strengthened to endure the suffering he faced in obedience to his Father? Hebrews 12:1-2. The joy set before him was the glory of heaven.
  • May that be your hope, resulting in a stronger marriage!